Fonds - Neil Rosenberg fonds

Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

Neil Rosenberg fonds

General material designation

  • Textual record
  • Graphic material
  • Sound recording

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Title notes

  • Variations in title: Rosenberg Collection
  • Source of title proper: Title based on contents of the fonds

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Reference code

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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

Dates of creation area


  • 1968-1999 (Creation)
    Rosenberg, Neil

Physical description area

Physical description

32 cm of textual records
54 photographs
151 sound recordings

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Archival description area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Neil Rosenberg (1939- ), folklorist, professor, and musician, was born in Seattle, Washington on 21 March to Jessie and Mildred (nee Smith) Rosenberg. Rosenberg has been married twice and has two daughters.

The oldest of two children, Rosenberg received his first lesson in classical violin at the age of seven. He and his family moved to Berkeley, California when he was twelve years old. He attended Berkeley High School from 1954-57. Between the ages of fourteen and eighteen, he studied folk and jazz guitar as well as voice. At this point in his life, Rosenberg began performing on radio, in folk music concerts, and at coffee houses. He continued with his secondary education at Oberlin College, Ohio in 1957 where he majored in History and received a BA in 1961. Rosenberg became interested in bluegrass music when he was at Oberlin College and taught himself how to play the five-string banjo and the mandolin. In 1961, he enrolled at Indiana University and received an MA (1964) and Ph.D (1970) in Folklore. While at Indiana, he played with several Bluegrass bands, one of which was Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys.

In 1968, Rosenberg was asked by Herbert Halpert to come to Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN), primarily as an archivist to organize the folklore material that had been collected by Halpert and John Widdowson. Rosenberg was chosen for this position because of his experience as cataloger (1966-68) at Indiana University Archives of Traditional Music. The skills and techniques he mastered at Indiana influenced his consequent organization of the Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA). With the help of a research associate, Violetta M. Halpert, he arranged all of the tape recordings, student papers and questionnaires to form the foundation of MUNFLA. Rosenberg continued as Archivist at MUNFLA until 1976 when he succeeded Herbert Halpert as Director of the archives.

Aside from archival work, Rosenberg also began lecturing at Memorial University in 1968. He earned the title of assistant professor in 1971 and in 1975 became an associate professor. In 1985, he became a professor. He also served as Head, pro tempore (1973-74; 1975-76), and Acting Head (1971-72; 1978-79) of the Department of Folklore. Rosenberg's research interests lie in the area of music and song, Canadian culture, revival movements, ethnomusicology, discography and archival practices. With regards to music and song, he has a particular interest in country, bluegrass and Newfoundland music.

As a folklorist and academic, Rosenberg has published numerous articles and essays along with five major books: Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys: An Illustrated Discography (1974); Folklore and Oral History (1978); Bluegrass: A History (1985); Transforming Tradition: Folk Music Revivals Examined (1993); and Bluegrass Odyssey: A Documentary in Pictures and Words (2001). As well, he has held various editing positions which include recorded sounds review editor for the Journal of American Folklore (1990-95); editor of Newsletter of the Music and Song section of the American Folklore Society (1992-93); and corresponding editor of the Journal of Folklore Research (1997- ).

Throughout his career, Rosenberg has been a member of several professional associations, including the Folklore Studies Association of Canada (of which he was twice President); the Canadian Society for Traditional Music; the Canadian Oral History Association; and the Society for Ethnomusicology. As well, he has been the recipient of many fellowships, grants and awards such as the Helen Creighton Foundation Grant-in Aid (1993), winner of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences "Grammy" for Best Album Notes (1997), and the Marius Barbeau Award of the Folklore Studies Association of Canada (2001).

When Rosenberg came to Newfoundland in 1968, he did not leave his musical talents and interests behind. He became very involved in the music scene and industry in Newfoundland. He performed with such bands as Country Dream, Sneed Hearn and the Smiling Liberators, Crooked Stovepipe and the Black Auks. From 1998 to 2001, Rosenberg played banjo and mandolin with the Bannerman Park Band. His involvement with these bands led to the production of several musical compilations such as Newfoundland Bluegrass with Crooked Stovepipe (1994); Pickin on The Rock with Crooked Stovepipe (1997); and No Second Takes with The Black Auks (1998).

Custodial history

Scope and content

Fonds consists of folkloric material collected by Neil Rosenberg as a result of his specific research interests and collaborations with other individuals. The majority of the material in the fonds deals with the folklore genres of song and music but also includes oral history, personal experience narratives, custom, language, legend, belief and popular culture. Some of Rosenberg's collaborators were Karolyn Stark (1969), Wilfred Wareham (1970, 1971), Herbert Halpert ( 1970), Frederick A. Aldrich (1977), Debora G. Kodish (1977), Peter Narvaez (1978-82), Ray Johnson (1981), the Atlantic Canada Institute (1981) and Tony Trischka [1991?].

The graphic material in the fonds consists of promotional photographs on two proof sheets, colour slides of commercial albums jackets, negatives that were created from photographs originally displayed in newspapers, photographs of Rosenberg's informants, and photographs of various groups that were either taken by Rosenberg or given to him.

The fonds also contains fieldwork notes, informants' biographical sheets, song sheets, songbooks, partial and/or full audio transcriptions and correspondence.

The fonds contains a large amount of published documents, photocopied material, newspaper clippings, promotional posters, commercial recordings, LP catalogues, dubs of radio shows and radio logs that were deposited due to a connection with the collector or informant and/or its folkloric content. These miscellaneous folklore items were collected by Rosenberg and his collaborators from 1979 to 1997.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

Acquired in several accessions from Neil Rosenberg.


Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Location of originals

Availability of other formats

Sound recordings are available on audio cassette reference copies.

Restrictions on access

There are some restrictions on access, arising from agreements made between informants and collectors. Information may be obtained from the archivist. Material in MUNFLA is available primarily for research and has copyright protection.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Finding aids

Summary lists and accession lists are available for the fonds.

Associated materials

Wilfred Wareham fonds; Herbert Halpert fonds; Peter Narvaez fonds; Jerry Pocius fonds.

Related materials


No further accruals are expected.

General note

There are also items of material culture in this fonds.

Physical description

Fonds consists of sound recordings which include 95 audio reels, 54 audio cassettes, 2 CDs. Graphic materials include 9 photographs (b&w), 20 photographs on proof sheets (b&w), 19 colour slides of album jackets, 3 colour slides of informants and 3 negatives that were produced from newspaper photographs.

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Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Created - May 2, 2013

Language of description

  • English

Script of description


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